How artificial intelligence will transform your business

Microsoft’s Cortana. Photo: YouTube/ calloftreyarch.

The next industrial revolution Australian businesses will face won’t be based on mechanisation, engineering or globalisation. Instead, it will be the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will power the next great business push.

AI is fast becoming a necessity in the business world and organisations are increasingly adopting AI to solve long-standing issues within their industry. Just last month, KPMG revealed they would be using AI to complete audits in Australia, which they anticipate will enable them to analyse bigger batches of data rather than relying on traditional sampling techniques. A perfect example of amplifying human potential using AI.

Taking tasks which usually require human intelligence and delegating them to machines has significant impact on business activities, including productivity, efficiency and even the way job roles are defined. But what really is AI? And, how is it being used today by Australian businesses?

Put simply, AI is a collection of algorithms that trains a predictive model when they’re fed more data. The algorithms learn from the data they receive and keep refining outcomes over time. In much the same way that people grow and develop in knowledge throughout their lives, AI is based on the accumulation of knowledge over time.

Modern AI systems can now mirror the human process of self-improvement when it comes to knowledge, and use that knowledge to hone the ability to respond to specific situations.

When it comes to everyday life, AI platforms help us automate systems and business processes, be that capturing client information, orchestrating requests or even being the front-line interface that consumers interact with. While there are some concerns that increased use of AI could mean job losses, AI can actually speed up repetitive or low revenue-generating activities such as data processing, freeing up of resources for higher value work. As well as reducing the pressure on the bottom line, AI can deliver improved experiences for end user groups such as customers, suppliers and staff.

Your desktop digital assistant is here to help. Picture: Microsoft.

Not convinced it could make a difference? Just think of the way AI is already incorporated into your daily life. There’s AI technology behind Siri and Cortana, as there is behind the self-service checkouts at your local supermarket. Australian banks, including NAB, use chatbots based on AI to deal with client queries. When you upload a photo to Facebook, it’s AI that recognises who’s in it.

And, AI is being put to work for some truly wonderful causes. Australian startup Aipoly uses AI technology to enable blind people to navigate the world around them using a smartphone app. The app uses an AI algorithm so that when a phone is held over an object, it can near-instantly identify it and say what it is out loud.

In consumer-facing industries such as retail, financial services, and entertainment, there’s an appetite for even more advanced AI applications, but how far can AI go?

There’s no real answer to that question, partly because there’s no real end to the problems it can solve. Firstly, we need to identify that a problem exists. For example, the insurance industry is saturated with useful data, but is still broadly reliant on humans to process the majority of policies, claims and queries. Infosys recently sponsored research into the extent to which the performance of the insurance business depends on digital. It revealed that only 50% of those surveyed were aware that they could feed AI-powered platforms with more company and industry data to help improve performance and decision-making.

We’re already seeing huge potential for AI in real-world business environments. The ability to automate repeatable tasks such as order validation and remove the need for corrective processes has already cut manual rekeying of information by up to 80 per cent in the case of a major telco provider we work with.

It’s an exciting time to work in the AI tech industry and it’s only just the beginning. AI technologies have huge scope to alter the way we work and will usher in a new wave of business innovation in Australia and beyond.

Abdul Razack is the head of platforms at Infosys, a provider of technology-driven business solutions.